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Self-glorifying and banal titles aside, these two CDs capture in their contrast the eternal question for the classical guitarist: Do I play the flashy and musically pedestrian or do I chance the intellectual and aurally confusing?
But first, a caveat; without doubt Paganini was a fine composer and by the same token Walton's Bagatelles are hardly difficult listening. However these composers constitute only a third, or less of their respective recordings. A perusal of the other composers and one will surely agree that no one will ever accuse Regondi or Giuliani of breaking new musical ground and ten minutes of Davidovsky's musings for tape and guitar sans road map is hard to navigate (even for those brilliant reviewers committed to the cause of new music).
Now, the players?
Our Italian Virtuoso, Mr. Catemario is a force of nature. His performances leap from the speakers and his daring (the most amazing being the two octave descending chromatic scale in octaves that ends the Regondi Introduzione e Capriccio
) are even more effective than on the first disc reviewed in these pages (Guitar XX). But in whose services are his extraordinary skills? My fear is that the next disc will be the complete works of Aguado and then, perhaps, a disc of Mertz. The saying goes that a fine actor should have the ability to make you cry by reading a menu and it was always said of Segovia that he gave the same care and attention to Turina that he gave to Bach. But that said, fine actors are always measured by their readings of Shakesepeare not TGI Fridays and Segovia's most memorable recording was the Bach Chaconne not the Turina Fandanguillo. So give me more Catemario only playing a composer worthy of his talents.
At the other end of the spectrum are the considerable talents of Cem Duruoz. I have not heard him play since hearing him in San Francisco over five years ago. With a masterful command of color and tenuto (his reading of the Alla Cubana
from the Bagatelles
is magic), Duruoz breathes life into an extremely dense program. His disc of Contemporary music overflows with color from the bouncy brightness of his Allegro from the Walton Bagatelles
to the understated cool of the Pink Floyd meets Steve Reich gem that is Nicky Hind's Crossings for Guitar and Live Electronics (I could have listened to a whole disc of Nicky's work). But, in order to get to the Hind, the first-time listener must wade through 20 minutes of gestural music, which divides the Walton from the Hind. The Hind is then followed by another ten minutes of musical thicket before we reach the Four Short Pieces for Classical
Guitar by David Hahn (charming pieces which sound like an updated version of the Mompou Suite). I am all for performers bringing new music to the fore, but by the same token Casaubonian exercises like these too often become museum pieces rather than periodic listens. My recommendation is to listen to the brilliant performances of the Walton (my favorite since Bream), Nicky Hind (you'll expect a David Gilmour solo) and David Hahn (a nice suite which is simple and effective) and leave the other performances for individual listens, as all are fine pieces.